In Articles, Personal Resources

Recovery from a drug or alcohol problem is a huge transition. It is far more than just about quitting the substance abuse; it is about changing your entire lifestyle from how you spend your day to who you spend time with. For many people in recovery, these overwhelming changes include rebuilding their identity after addiction.

Addiction As An Identity Crisis

Drug and alcohol addictions are so destructive because people come to get such intense cravings to fuel these addictions that they begin to prioritize these substances over everything else. Because drugs and alcohol have consumed their lives, they begin to lose themselves in the process. Their whole lives revolve around their addiction and, as a result, so do their identities.

When these people eventually get sober, they are left with a huge void in their lives where their addiction used to be. Without drugs and alcohol, they may feel like they have no more purpose or that they don’t even know who they are anymore. Building self-identity after addiction is so important because these people need to feel secure in their new sobriety. A new identity can help them feel happier and healthier while also avoiding relapse.

How to Build A New Identity in Substance Abuse Recovery

Part of trying to rebuild your life after a substance abuse problem is rebuilding your recovery. This can be easier said than done, and you may not even know where to begin, but these tips may help.


The people we surround ourselves with can have a bigger influence on our lives than many people realize. Research has shown time and time again that part of our sense of self and identity is derived from other people and the biggest influencers are the people we spend the most time with.1 While you were still using drugs or drinking, you probably spent time with other people who enjoyed these same activities. Now that you are in recovery, you need to find people to spend time with who will support your sobriety journey and be a healthy influence. These new people can help you redefine your identity. Especially if you connect with other people who are also in recovery, you may be more easily able to rebuild your identity in recovery because you can see how they have rebuilt theirs.


A lot of people find part of their identity through their work. Their careers help give their lives meaning and a sense of purpose. When you come out of a substance abuse rehab, you may not have your dream job lined up and waiting for you. You may have been fired because of your addiction or you may be working at a job you hate. As you start to rebuild your life after addiction, look for work that you enjoy. Landing your dream job may take time but start with baby steps that point you in the right direction. Doing something that you love can help you find purpose and help you find a new identity after addiction.

Hobbies & Interests

Many recovering addicts or alcoholics find themselves with a lot of free time on their hands, especially immediately following strict and structured treatment like our residential treatment in Laurel Run. Not only can this boredom lead to relapse, but it does nothing to rebuild your identity. Instead, fill this free time with a new hobby or find a new interest. You can even try several different activities before picking something you enjoy. You interests are what help make you unique and can help you develop a new identity.


Some people in recovery may feel guilt or shame as they struggle to move past the wrongs they did while they were still an addict and rebuild their self-identity in a positive manner in recovery. One way that these people may be able to move forward and find new meaning in their lives is by helping others. Volunteering is a great way to give back and can help people feel better about themselves as well. With this newfound sense of purpose from volunteering, these people will start to be able to reidentify themselves as good people instead of dwelling on their troubled past.


Your identity when you were an addict may have been negative or mostly nonexistent. Your new identity in addiction recovery should be more positive to help you move forward as well as to find lasting sobriety. One way to do this is to practice self-love with positive affirmations. Make a conscious effort to give yourself positive affirmations every day. This may mean talking to yourself in the mirror or making a mental note at the end of the night of things that you did well that day. Positive affirmations can help ensure that you create a more positive self-identity in addiction recovery.

Our detox center in PA understands that addiction recovery is so much more than stopping drug or alcohol abuse. It is the first step toward rebuilding your life and your new identity.

If you are ready to take the first step or know someone who needs help, reach out to us today at 570-536-9621. At Clearbrook, we are here to help.




  1. BBC – How your friends change your habits – for better and worse
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